Despite the changes over the past year (more buses, Downtown line, et al), ask anyone who has to take public transport to work in the CBD how their commute went, and there’s a high chance you’ll be met with a black face and an anecdote about some guy’s armpits or some auntie who was leaning on the pole.
The fact remains that Singaporeans still have lots of complaints about public transport, and not just about the lack of personal space. The speed and efficiency at which the public transport system gets you from Point a to Point B are still lacking if you’re not within walking distance of an MRT station and are forced to use buses, and as for taxis, well, let’s just say there’s a reason some people prefer to pay more to use Uber.
Here are some of Singaporeans’ biggest bugbears about public transport, and what we can do to try to get around them.
Waiting time for taxis
Of all the things Singaporeans hate about commuting in Singapore, waiting time for taxis is one of the most reviled, as a recent survey revealed.
Sure, if you leave a club at 4am on a Saturday you’ll have no shortage of taxis waiting to escort you home, puke notwithstanding. But try oversleeping on a Monday morning and calling a cab to rush you to work, and you might face excruciating waits of over half an hour.
The hardest times to get a cab are generally rush hour before work and from about 6 to 7pm in the CBD. If you know you need a cab at those times, you can call ahead the day before and book one. This comes at a price though—the booking fee will be about $6 to $8, roughly double the usual booking fee of $3.30 to $4.50.
Waiting time for buses
When people (especially tourists who’ve only been here on holiday) rave about how great the public transport system is, it’s likely they’re only thinking of the MRT
But if you rely on buses for your daily commute, either to get to work or to take you to the nearest MRT station, you’ve no doubt faced the frustration of waiting half an hour for a bus that then shows up full, or with three others.
If you really have no choice but to rely on buses, you absolutely need to download the IRIS app, which lets you check the waiting time of buses. If you see that your bus is only arriving in 28 minutes, you can then plan to use a different service.
If you’ve been waiting for MRT breakdowns to completely go away, you can forget it. It seems like they’re here to stay at least in the medium term. It’s gotten so serious that there is now a Wikipedia page dedicated entirely to the various MRT breakdowns.
While there’s nothing you can do to prevent or predict MRT breakdowns, or even to make contingency transport plans, you can always make sure you’re equipped to survive being trapped in an MRT cabin, on the platform or at a bus stop as you try to get away.
For starters, make sure your phone is always fully charged and that you have some reading material in case you’re stuck in one place for a long time. I never ever board public transport without a book. There are only so many rounds of Candy Crush you can play.
Missing the last train
While our MRT network has grown over the years, one thing that’s frustratingly clear is that the number of late night transport options has actually decreased.
Over the years, we’ve seen the number of post-midnight bus services dwindle, and two years ago, SMRT’s Night Rider services were made to operate only until 2am instead of the previous 4.30am, because the company apparently wasn’t making enough money on these routes. (And yes, I have taken these night bus services many times and they’re actually quite full.) So much for transport being a public good.
If you’re not willing to fork out the cash for a cab, that means you’d better not miss that last train or bus. It’s a good idea to set an alarm on your phone to alert you as to when you need to start packing up your stuff or saying your goodbyes.
Also use your smartphone to check the time of the last bus or train services in your area. There’s nothing worse than having to shell out an extra $30 because you missed the last bus by 1 minute.
Which of the above affects you the most when you commute? Tell us how you deal in the comments!